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Retail Score: Brick & Mortar 4.5%, Online 28%

To survive today, small business owners must develop and implement an online business strategy. An online business strategy allows a small business owner to increase sales to whatever level they desire without expanding or changing their existing location.

A small town doesn’t have to mean small business.

There are currently 300 million customers online worldwide with the numbers increasing every day. Businesses like eBay and Amazon have helped to educate and familiarize people with the concept of buying online. Every day, more and more people of all ages are online.

Where traditional retail operations are growing at about 4.5% annually, online sales are growing at a rate of 28%. It’s clear to see where the trends are going. They are going to online stores.

These figures are good news for every business owner, particularly those in small towns. Why? To successfully compete nationwide or worldwide is no longer a problem for small businesses. When a business has a professional online presence, the size and location of the business are not readily apparent. Anyone can compete online with the right knowledge and tools.

In addition, the cost associated with starting a business online or moving a business online is relatively cheap. It takes a website and some savvy marketing skills. Let’s look at how we can cost effectively achieve this.

Websites

Websites can involve a lot of time and money if you are not knowledgeable about the subject. Rather than spend the time and money for a website right now, consider an eBay Store as an alternative.

An eBay Store gives you all the benefits of a website without the cost and time. Once established, an eBay Store will provide your business with a unique web address. This web address can be promoted like any website and included in Internet search engine results.

To establish an eBay Store, you need to sign up for a seller account at eBay. They have an easy step-by-step process for accomplishing that task. You will need to go through their five-dollar “ID Verified” process so they will waive the feedback requirements for a store. The first 30 days of the store is free. Then the fee is $9.95 per month thereafter. To add items to your store only costs pennies per item and is accomplished through an easy to understand template.

Marketing Your Online Presence

Once you have established your online presence via an eBay Store, it’s time to promote the store. There are many ways to do online promotion. They range from free and easy to expensive and complicated. So, let’s start free and easy first.

In your eBay Store, you have access to a menu of management items. Two of these are critical to your promotion of your eBayƤ Store throughout the Internet. The first is to select the option of making your store “searchable by the search engines”. The second is to choose key words for your items that will attract search engines. What are key words?

Simply put, a search engine will look for the words a person designates during their search in order to find relevant sites for them. So, the more keywords you can think of that could be used to describe your items, including misspellings, the better chance you have of being found by a search engine. Why is this critical?

Google.com, a major search engine, has over four billion websites in their database. You have to do something to increase your own chances of being found. Key words are one way to do that. So if you sold gift baskets, for instance, you might choose the following keywords and keyword phrases: “gift basket”, “gift baskets”, “birthday basket”, “gift”, “anniversary basket”, “25th anniversary basket”, “50th anniversary basket”, etc. You get the picture!

In addition to the cheap and easy promotion tools in your eBay Store, there are other cheap and easy methods of marketing your store. Among the many methods are: free online classified ads, email signature lines, business cards, and flyers in your brick & mortar store. Let’s start with the free online classified ads.

There are hundreds of online sites that offer free classified ads. Simply search for “free classified ads” in any search engine. There will be hundreds! Make certain that you have a good and compelling 25-word ad for your eBay Store. Then, post it everywhere you can for free! Another free method is your email signature line.

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